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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

8 Ways to Change Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

8 Ways to Change Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

Self sabotaging. This is the tiny voice within us that quietly repeats the same sentence over and over again until we listen to it. It is not a sentence that enables us to live a joyful, successful life.

In fact, it is a sentence that holds us back from living life to the fullest, and when we listen to it, we forgo our dreams and goals. That one sentence, if we allow it to, can have a lot of control over how we live our lives.

“As I look into my life, I might ask, ‘Who is the person that represents the greatest threat to me?’ And if I happen to have a mirror around somewhere, I can rather quickly answer that question.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough

This quote describes pretty well what self-sabotage is all about. Self-sabotage is an internal process that we all have within ourselves, whether it be through thoughts or behaviors that keep us from what we desire most in life.

Are You Self-Sabotaging?

The one sentence that our subconsious keeps telling us is:

“You can’t do this.”

This tiny but powerful voice comes from our subconscious. Our subconscious is designed to protect us from harm and help us manage our fears. Now, when we use our subconscious in a productive way, it can help us navigate through tricky situations.

The problem, however, is that our subconscious can become very overprotective and over time can have a negative influence on us, holding us back from achieving success and happiness in our lives.

“Stop standing in your own way. Stop making excuses. Stop talking about why you can’t. Stop sabotaging yourself. Decide what direction you are going in and take action. One decision at a time, one moment at a time.” – Akiroq Brost

If you are nodding yes to all the things that Akiroq Brost is saying in his quote above, then that is a very good indication that you are self-sabotaging and preventing yourself from achieving all your goals and dreams in life.

What Are Self-Sabotaging Behaviors?

Many of us have engaged in self-sabotaging behaviors that have become habits. We allow these behaviors and thoughts to continually undermine our success and happiness. Some of our self sabotage is so subtle, it’s easy to miss.

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We often fail to recognize how our actions are hurting us. However, there are common actions, thoughts, and behaviors that signal that you are self-sabotaging.

Here’re 3 self-sabotaging habits and behaviors to be aware of:

1. Procrastination

If you are setting goals, working on projects, and not achieving anything – in fact, if you are doing lots of thinking but taking no action – then you are definitely procrastinating. In this case, self-sabotaging thoughts could definitely be ruling your life.

Learn more about procrastination: What is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide).

2. The Inner Critic

Negative self-talk: what you say to yourself – your inner dialogue – can have either a positive influence on your life or a negative influence. If you are constantly criticizing yourself and your self-talk is always negative, then self sabotage is in control of your life.

3. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a very subtle self-sabotaging behavior because you can always rationalize why you should listen to that voice in your head saying, “It has to be the right time, or I am not quite ready to take action.”

Perfectionism stops you from moving forward and closes you down to any opportunities that will take you out of your comfort zone. Your subconscious is there to keep you safe, and it likes the comfort zone, so it will do anything to keep you there – hence pushing down all those thoughts that keep you from doing anything courageous and daring.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

“You can’t imagine just how much believing in negative thoughts is affecting your life…until you stop.” – Charles F. Glassman

Everyone self sabotages – it is what we humans do. Some of us, however, have learned how to manage our self-sabotaging behaviors so that they no longer stop us from achieving our goals and dreams in life.

We all have one gift that can help us take control of our lives for the better. This gift is our power of choice.

By taking action and using your power of choice, you are able to take control and proactively manage your self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors so they no longer have a negative influence on your life.

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You get to choose the life you want to live and how you want to live it. That is a powerful and wonderful thing to achieve in life!

Along with you using your power of choice, here are 8 steps you can start taking immediately to stop self sabotaging your success in life:

1. Understand Self Sabotage

To manage the behaviors that have a negative influence on your life, you need to understand what self sabotage means for you.

The reasons we engage in self-sabotaging behaviors are complex. However, the root of the problem is often low self-worth. This can lead to us feeling the need to be in control, or feeling inadequate or like a fraud.

Self sabotage can trick you into feeling that you are protecting yourself from disappointment or failure when, in reality, these behaviors are limiting you from reaching your true potential. The more aware you are of the negative thoughts and behaviors that control your life, the easier it is to decide what you want to do about them.

This is when your power of choice comes into play. Choose not to be the greatest obstacle in achieving your dreams.

2. Use Strategies to Help You Manage Avoidance and Procrastination

“The more you resist, the more it will persist.”

This is a saying that has stayed with me for many years. I am a great procrastinator, and the more I avoid taking action, the more my anxiety builds up. The best way to overcome procrastination is to have strategies in place that will force you to be accountable to take action.

For example, make a to-do list that outlines every step involved in achieving the project outcomes.

Or, have a daily to-do list that prioritizes the tasks and activities that must be achieved at the end of the day. Make sure that you have no more than 3 tasks that are a top priority and must be done.

Read more about how to make successful to-do lists: The Right Way to Make a To Do List and Get Things Done.

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3. Find Your Inner Positive Voice

What often holds us back in life is fear, and when we hear that inner critic telling us that we shouldn’t do something, we are afraid that it might be right! We start to believe that we don’t deserve happiness or that we are a failure.

The best way to manage your inner critic and the fear that comes with it is by not engaging in what it is saying. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise, celebrating success, keeping a gratitude journal, and helping others are examples of how you can build your inner voice to where it has a positive influence on your life.

New to mindfulness? Read 7 Simple Tricks To Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Life.

4. Change Your Patterns of Behavior

Everything you achieve is a direct result of your actions. Learn how to control your negative habits and your fear of failure will diminish. Take control your achievements and focus on those behaviors that will reduce your stress over time.

Recognize that your negative actions and behaviors come from a place of low self-worth. Understand your limitations and look for opportunities where you focus on self-improvement.

Focus on reducing your “mental clutter” because when you do this, you will find you will have more energy and time to correct the thinking and behaviors that are not serving you well.

5. Make Small, Meaningful Changes

No form of personal change happens overnight, so be prepared for the journey of change. The best way to stay on this journey is to accept that real change happens one step at a time.

Consistently appreciating the incremental improvements you are making will overtime produce a significant and long-lasting change for the better in your life. It can be very helpful to ask yourself, “How can I improve this by one percent?” rather than asking, “How can I eliminate this self-sabotaging habit?”

6. Set Goals and Plans

Everyone needs a destination or an idea of what they want to achieve, whether it be in life or while working on a project. Having set goals and plans in life gives you clarity and focus and as a result, helps you to stay on track.

You are less likely to get distracted, procrastinate, and be influenced by your inner self-critic. You will also find that you will be a more effective decision maker because you will have the clarity and the confidence to move forward, which is what effective decision making is all about.

Master the decision-making process! How to Make a Decision: The Secret to Making the Right Decision Fast.

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7. Surround Yourself with Positive People

When we are immersed in a life of self sabotage, we tend to inadvertently surround ourselves with people who are in the same predicament. These people feed off each other’s negative energy.

There is no hope for you to make the changes you need if you continue to surround yourself with negative people – they will suck your energy. The more positive and upbeat people you have in your life, the more chance you have to make the changes you need to move forward.

If you want to live a fulfilled and happy life, surround yourself with people who are living the kind of life you desire. Observe their behaviors, their actions, and their language and then integrate all the things you like into your life as well.

8. Practice Self Acceptance and Self Care

Making changes in your life requires time and energy. You can’t ask yourself to make big changes if your energy levels are depleted.

Find ways for you to replenish your energy levels so that you are able to make those changes you need to commit to your journey of change. Be honest with yourself and explore activities that give you the space to reflect and replenish.

There are so many things you can do, so go find that activity or exercise that works for you – go out and explore. Try different things: try yoga or meditation, join a gym, learn to ride a horse, learn to ski. The list can go on.

The one thing for you to keep in mind is that consistent activity brings positive energy into your life, and with this energy, you will find that your self-belief and self-worth will flourish. Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors will no longer have any control over your life.

The Bottom Line

“The most dangerous way we sabotage ourselves is by waiting for the perfect moment to begin. Nothing works perfectly the first time, or the first fifty times. Everything has a learning curve. Learn to learn, learn to fail, learn to learn from failing. And begin today. Begin now. Stop waiting.” – Vironka Tugaleva.

Self sabotaging is something that almost everyone struggles with at some point in their lives. The important thing is to acknowledge that it happens, remind ourselves that we are not to blame, and take steps to stop self-sabotaging behaviors. Doing this will help us life happier, more successful lives.

More Tips for Building a Positive Self

Featured photo credit: Callie Morgan via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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